12 THE GAY GENIUS works and wrote to him about it. In his reply to Liu Mien he said: "I have fallen upon evil days because of my writing, and sometimes I wish to black out my intelligence, which unfortunately cannot be done. My youngest son, Kuo, is beginning to write more beautifully than ever. During my hours of boredom, living overseas, sometimes Kuo shows me one of his compositions, and I am happy for days and enjoy my food and my sleep better. This shows that literature is like gold and jade or precious stones, which have an intrinsic value of their own that cannot-be denied." In the pleasure it gives to the author during his free creative activity, and in the happiness it gives to its readers, literature j ustifies its own existence. Su possessed an unusually generous talent, which broke all boundaries and seemed to know no limitations. His poems were always fresh, not like Wang Anshih's, which occasionally attained perfection. Su did not have to attain such perfection. Where other poets were limited by poetic diction and conventional themes, Su could write a poem on massage at a bath-house, and he could incorporate slang and make it sound well in a poem. Always it was that extra something' which others could not do that compelled admiration from his fellow craftsmen. His chief contribution to a special form of poetry, the tse, confined hitherto to yearnings of the lovelorn, was that he could turn the metre into a vehicle for discourse on Buddhism and philosophy, and he succeeded La this almost impossibly risky task. Usually he 'wrote a little better and a little faster than others, for he often had to compose poems after dinner with people looking on. His thoughts were fresher and his analogies and allusions more appropriate than those of other poets. Once at a farewell dinner given him at Huangchow, a female enter- tainer came up and asked him to write a poem on her shawl. Now he had not heard of this entertainer, Li Chi, during his stay at Huangchow. He asked her to grind the ink and took up the brush and wrote a simple beginning: ! Four years'has Tungpo lived at Huangchow, Strange that he never mentioned Li Chi. Then he stopped and went on talking with his guests. It was, in the opinion of those present, a rather flat beginning, and besides, the poem was not finished. Su went on eating, chatting and laughing. Li Chi came up again and asked him to finish it. "Oh, I almost forgot," said Su. He took up the brush again and dashed off the second half of the quatrain: Exactly like Tu Fu of the West River; Of the best flower, begonia, he sang the least.